Spring Training Report - March 8

The Braves Show's Bill Shanks has some news and notes from spring training.

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Let's first deal with a few injury notes. Reliever Phil Stockman will have a MRI this week on his back and probably see a specialist. He has had back trouble for two years, and it is believed the injury is connected to the injury Stockman had in the back of his knee area two years ago. Stockman is hoping to avoid surgery and be back as soon as possible, but he's anxious to get some word on what exactly is wrong with his back. For a tall pitcher, back trouble is almost as bad as having arm trouble, so Stockman just wants to know what's wrong.

Outfielder Jordan Schafer hit off the tee today. He will try to take live batting practice Monday and then be in the lineup Tuesday in Kissimmee against the Astros. Schafer has had trouble with the AC joint in his shoulder, which has had him out about a week. Schafer feels he can get back in the lineup and still be a candidate to be the Opening Day center fielder.

On the minor league side, lefty Cole Rohrbough has been scaled back on his running program. Rohrbough had serious ankle surgery over the offseason. He hasn't had any discomfort on the mound, only when he is running. So the Braves are just being a little careful with him. The medical staff does not believe it is anything out of the ordinary, just normal recovery from a delicate operation.

Now to the action on the field, and I'll start on the back fields. Last year's first pick, lefty Brett DeVall, threw a live batting practice today. DeVall had a bone spur at the end of last season and was shut down, but he's on a normal schedule now and feels good. DeVall has an easy left-handed delivery, with very clean mechanics. You can tell he's going to get bigger and really fill out. The Braves will be careful with DeVall, and chances are he'll be in Danville this season.

As I was leaving the back fields to head to the major league area, Tom Glavine was on field two with another live BP session. Glavine told some of the other reporters after the game he felt okay, but he just didn't look very comfortable out there. His stuff was ordinary (and I know, when was Glavine's stuff anything else but ordinary) and it just didn't look crisp. Maybe he'll improve in the six weeks before his scheduled start on April 19th, but there are already whispers that this Glavine comeback is in jeopardy.

If Glavine is not the fifth starter, chances are Jo Jo Reyes or Tommy Hanson will get that role. Reyes pitched great on Friday and his work, and his improvement from last season, is being recognized by the coaching staff. If Reyes continues to do well he could get the nod over Hanson, particularly since Hanson is not on the 40-man roster.

But then to watch Mr. Hanson on Sunday would make you think he's got just as good a chance as anyone to be in the rotation on Opening Day. Why would this kid be ready? He is ready. He struck out seven Phillies hitters in four innings of work, allowing only one run on four hits.

Hanson fell behind Ryan Howard 3-0 in one at bat, but the young right-hander came back to throw three straight strikes to send Howard back to the bench.

Hanson did not have the best command of his fastball on Sunday, but he was able to turn to his curveball and be effective. Hanson then admitted his changeup wasn't very sharp. How special is that when your fastball command is not there and your changeup is not working and you still have seven punch outs against the defending Champions.

Hanson's curve was filthy. He's good folks, very good. There's no reason to think Hanson can't be ready to get big league hitters out right now, but the Braves may want him to get just a bit more time in the minors before making his debut. Either way, this kid is going to pitch in the big leagues this season, and chances are he's going to be pretty good.

And the Braves may simply want to give Reyes the first shot at it, since he does have time in the big leagues and he has been extremely successful this spring. Reyes is determined to show he can be a big leaguer.

After Hanson we had some impressive performances from Mike Gonzalez, Peter Moylan, James Parr, and Francisley Bueno. I spoke with Gonzalez after his work was done. He's pumped. Gonzo is ready to be the closer. He thinks this team is good, and he thinks the bullpen could be much improved.

Moylan was hitting 91 mph on the gun, but it was his sweeping breaking ball that was impressive. He swears he's healthy, and right now there's little reason to believe he won't be ready for Opening Day.

Parr came out and was hitting 92 mph on the gun, which was surprising. He usually would sit at 88-90 with his fastball with an occasional 91 mph. Parr hasn't gotten much publicity this spring, but he looked good and while he'll probably go to Gwinnett as a starter, you got to keep him in mind if Atlanta needs a long reliever this season. Parr looked better than I've ever seen him, and if that fastball is crisper out of the pen, he might have found his role.

And I want to tell you, Bueno has a big league arm. He had his fastball around 90 mph, but it was his curveball that got everyone's attention. He was impressive. He'll also probably go to Gwinnett to be in the rotation, but Bueno is someone who could really contribute at some point. Some even wonder if he's just as good of an option as Boone Logan and Eric O'Flaherty.

After I watched Glavine pitch a bit on the back field, I saw Kenshin Kawakami coming toward that back mound. He stopped to be interviewed by a few Japanese reporters and to have his picture taken (a few million times). I asked his interpreter if we could get a quick interview and he said yes. So we'll have that interview, with some interesting answers, in a few days.

Tomorrow we'll see Kawakami pitch. Can't wait for that.



Bill Shanks hosts The Braves Show Talk Show. He is the author of Scout's Honor: The Bravest Way To Build A Winning Team. You can email Bill at thebravesshow@email.com.



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